By Sophia Lopez, September 3 2021—
With the fall semester beginning next week, many University of Calgary students are frustrated to see some of their in-person classes switch to an online format even after Aug. 20, which was the deadline for professors to make any format changes.
In an interview with the Gauntlet, the Students’ Union (SU) President Nicole Schmidt expressed her disappointment with the university and its last minute decisions.
“We’re very disappointed at the Students’ Union that the university has decided to make this decision as late as they have,” said Schmidt. “The Students’ Union has been inundated with student complaints over the last few days from students who have had their courses move online at the last minute. We were not consulted by the university at all ahead of this decision.”
Schmidt believes this decision made by the university and its professors has been too last minute considering many students — especially international students — have already made a commitment to stay in Calgary.
“Up to this point, students have been busy planning their schedules and lives for the fall semester. They registered in classes in good faith, expecting the university to honour their decisions around the course delivery format,’’ she explained. “But instead what we’ve seen is the university has pulled the rug out from under students with less than two weeks to go until classes begin.”
Since students are expected to pay full tuition this year, Schmidt discussed how many of the complaints received at the SU have been regarding how expensive tuition is considering many classes will continue online.
“There’s approximately 700 international students who are currently going through quarantine either in residence or at hotels,” said Schmidt. “Many of these students have already travelled across the world and spent thousands of dollars on flights, damage deposits and rent just so that they can arrive in Calgary and sit in front of a laptop. So, very disappointing there.”
Aside from allowing professors to change their course formats past the deadline, Schmidt said that the university has once again failed to listen to the concerns of students and consult with the SU before making this decision.
“This is the third time the university has made a really big decision that impacts students and the Students’ Union has not been consulted on it at all in advance,” she said. “First it was the bookstore, next it was the exceptional tuition increases and now these course format changes. I definitely think that the University of Calgary needs to do a significantly better job of consulting with students and consulting with the Students’ Union on how these changes are actually gonna impact students.”
Schmidt and the rest of the SU are expecting the university to either respect the original decision to have certain classes in-person or at least reimburse the students who have had their classes suddenly switch online.
“The SU is asking for two things — the Students’ Union is calling on the university to actually honour how courses were originally intended to be delivered when students registered in them,” she said. “Secondly, in failing that, the SU believes the university should reimburse students for any expenses incurred for students who had most or all of their classes suddenly move online.”
Since classes start next week, Schmidt hopes to meet with the university as soon as possible to discuss the situation and hopefully get a positive outcome for students.
“Currently at the Students’ Union we’re working on a consultation guidelines document to give to the university in order to hopefully prevent any situations like this,” said Schmidt. “We do have meetings set up later on so we’re hoping to sort this all out before the start of the semester.”
Although Schmidt said that she can be directly contacted through her social media, she said that a specific email has been set up to gather people’s opinions on the situation.
“We have a feedback email specifically set up for students to contact if they do want to let us know their thoughts on this decision, good or bad we’re happy to hear what students are saying about this, we value their feedback on this issue,” said Schmidt. “The faculty representatives and the executives can also be contacted through email addresses on the SU website.”
To get in touch with the SU and to read Schmidt’s full statement, visit the SU website. To express your concerns and opinions about classes suddenly shifting to an online format, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.